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November 2010

No Sunday Night Journal this week

I was about halfway through writing at 9 or so last night when I decided I really ought to check on some things at work, having managed to ignore them since last Wednesday. I found that the database software on my main system had locked up, and spent the rest of the evening, until way past what should have been bedtime, trying to get it working again. I succeeded, but when I checked on it early this morning it was locked up again. Eventually our software vendor repaired the problem, but it was a pretty stressful day. Then I stayed late at work. And I had to run an errand on my way home. And I don't have the mental energy to finish the SNJ now. So I'll just let it wait till next week. A few random-ish things:

Here's something interesting: writer and blogger Amy Welborn has a column in USA Today. And it's a good one (of course), about the pope. I thought she had quit blogging after the untimely death of her husband a couple of years ago, but she seems to be pretty active again. I should put her blog back on my sidebar. Actually I have a list of at least a dozen sites that I should put there. Actually I have at least a solid week of work to do on this site.


What a hassle that transition from Blogger to TypePad has been. I really want to switch the URL so that it points here, but have postponed it several times for various reasons. Currently I'm planning to do it soon after Christmas. I'm waiting because once again I'm getting a great many visitors looking for Karen's Advent pictures, and most of them are Google searches taking them to And those addresses won't work anymore when I change the URL. I've redirected the Advent page there so that it comes here, and am hoping Google is smart enough to detect that. Not that it really matters that much, but I like the fact that people are enjoying the pictures. Interestingly, it seems that most of those searches come from Europe. I also need to put up larger versions of those pics--some of them were squashed to fit the Blogger column, because I hadn't figured out that Blogger would scale it for me and link to the original.


Back to the pope: the amount of misunderstanding and at least partly deliberate misreading of the pope's comment about condoms and AIDS has really been mind-boggling. I wonder how many millions of people now think the Catholic Church has abruptly changed its mind about contraception. The subject came up at my house on the day after Thanksgiving, with a couple of my in-laws' in-laws. Cradle Catholics, they were pretty scornful of the Church's teaching. I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to be a troublemaker. And I really think that teaching is almost impossible for people to understand until or unless they have attained an idea of sex as the holy and immensely significant thing it is. Without that, it just seems crazy. I haven't especially enjoyed trying to live by the Church's teaching on this. But I believe it is correct, and so I don't regret the effort.

If we--men and women, husbands and wives--really loved each other as we are supposed to, with the deepest and strongest love of which we're capable, there would be no disagreement with this teaching. Although it still wouldn't be easy to follow.


Here are two pieces about Sarah Palin, courtesy of my friend Robert: a blog post and an article in The Weekly Standard. The first is more positive than the second. The Palin phenomenon sort of fascinates me: as I've said before, there is much to like about her, and yet...I have a feeling that she is going to turn the next Republican presidential nomination process into a train wreck.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

I don't suppose anyone who is at all interested needs my encouragement to go see this, but if you're undecided: it's really good. My wife and two of our adult children went to see it last night, and we all liked it, including Clare, who grew up with the books and loved them. I really enjoyed it--more than I did the book, actually, which seemed rather unfocused to me. Perhaps I'll change my view of the book if I ever read it again, which I may not. But I'd go see the movie again right now if it were convenient. It's very well-crafted and as usual well-acted, and quite moving. I'm just sorry that Part 2 isn't coming out till July.

Ella Fitzgerald: Midnight Sun

Weekend Music

This is rather late for the usual weekend music post, because I've been busy with Thanksgiving-related activities, and I was just going to skip doing it this week, but my friend Robert sent me a link to this appreciation of the Lionel Hampton/Sonny Burke/Johnny Mercer song "Midnight Sun," including a clip of Ella Fitzgerald singing it.  I'm linking to the article instead of just including the video because it's very much worth reading. One of these days I'll write something longer about Johnny Mercer.

The Game

Well, the Alabama-Auburn game, aka the Iron Bowl (because it used to be played in Birmingham, which was built on the iron and steel industry) is coming up tomorrow. For those who haven't been around Auburn and Alabama fans, which I expect is almost everyone who reads this blog, this piece will give you a good idea of how crazy the rivalry  is. I decided earlier in this football season that I was going to resume the sporting tradition of wishing Auburn well except when they're playing us, but it hasn't been easy to do. But the intensity really needs to be turned down a few notches. It is, frankly, insane to invest that much emotion in a game—I mean to the point where you really hate other people just because they are fans of the other team, and feel like your own sense of self-worth, or something, rides on the outcome of a game. It's especially absurd when it pits the people of a state which doesn't in general have a lot to be proud of against each other. 

One thing that always strikes me is that the players don't act that way. They spend an hour trying to smash each other, and then you see them on the field after the game shaking hands and talking. Notice, for instance, the way the Alabama players talk here. They're intensely competitive, but respectful.

A few weeks ago, watching the Auburn-LSU game, I thought they were both very good (which obviously they are), but I also thought that on a good day we could beat either of them. Well, we had a bad day against LSU. Here's hoping the a good one arrives tomorrow. I hope we win, but if we lose I hope Auburn ends up number 1 in the nation. Roll Tide.

The existence of language is one of the many phenomena—of which love and music are the two strongest—which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat.

—A.N. Wilson

Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way

Weekend Music

Well, the music by married couples, or bands including married couples, theme has pretty much run its course. I'm down to couples who weren't happily married and got divorced long ago, and/or whose music I'm not that crazy about. I'm afraid I never liked Fleetwood Mac a great deal, at least in their most commercially successful period. They were very capable (great rhythm section), and I didn't actively dislike them, but hearing their songs a few times on the radio was enough.

But I always thought this song was a killer. It's almost cheating a bit to use it, because the married couple were the bass player, John McVie, and the keyboard player, Christine McVie, and this song features other people--another couple, actually, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, but I don't think they were ever married. But I like it a whole lot better than some of their bigger hits, e.g. "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow". Yuck. I never did care for it, and then when the Clintons used it as their inaugural theme song, my view of both was confirmed: bland '70s pop for establishment liberals.

This track has got a real edge, though. Love the drums in the verses.




From the moment that man died on the cross, the word sacrifice became a huge word, a great word, and it revealed—as when the sun rises, like a sun that rises—that the whole life of every man is woven of sacrifices, is full of shudders of sacrifice, is, as it were, dominated by the need to sacrifice...

...sacrifice becomes the keystone of all life—life's value is in the sacrifice one lives—but also the keystone for understanding the history of man.

—Monsignor Luigi Giusanni (via Magnificat)

"She's so gosh darn happy"

I think this thesis of this piece, that "Sarah Palin's happiness is what really irks liberals,"  is only partly true. Her detractors can present much more solid reasons for finding her an objectionable political personality. But there's probably a little something to it. For an awful lot of people who are on what I call the cultural left, which is more concerned with criticizing traditional social institutions than with ordinary politics, and which overlaps but isn't identical with the political left, a decent and reasonably happy middle-class American family isn't really supposed to exist. The American family is the family of American Beauty:  disturbed, repressive, disintegrating, outwardly pleasant (maybe) but rotten with dark secrets. I can imagine that Palin's upbeat straightforward middle-class-ness is an extra twist of the knife to those who already detest her. 

It's the counterpart of conservatives vs. Hilary Clinton: we didn't like her politics, of course, but it was her Nurse Rached vibe that really drove us crazy. 

Of course she annoys and worries a lot of conservatives, too—with good reason, I think (read the comments on that post). I don't think she could win a presidential election, and if she won I don't see much reason to think she'd be a good president. I sort of like her but I think she'd be wise to stick with the activist-cheerleader role she's currently taken on. Or else go back into Alaska politics and get some more experience before venturing into the national arena again.

And speaking of Mrs. Palin: "refudiate" is the Oxford American Dictionary's word of the year. I think it's a great word myself.


"Mahler's childhood was not idyllic: His first composition (age six) was a Polka with an introductory Funeral March."

—James Penrose, reviewing a new book about Mahler in the November New Criterion (not available online except to subscribers)